NEIU Women in Upcoming ChicagoCHEC Conference

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Daphne Watson, Staff Writer

Several women from the NEIU community will partake in the Women in Science Conference in Alumni Hall on Friday, Oct. 26. The Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) is hosting the conference with this year’s theme being mathematics.

ChicagoCHEC is headquartered on NEIU and aim to attack health inequity through outreach, education and cultural sensitivity. This program is funded by a federal U54 grant, which is meant to support cooperative research and a multidisciplinary offensive against, in ChicagoCHEC’s case, cancer.

Leadership and faculty within ChicagoCHEC overlap disciplines through the cooperating universities (NEIU, Northwestern and UIC).

NEIU economics professor and Core Co-Leader Christina Ciecierski said the fight against cancer isn’t solely a healthcare issue. She said she views health equity as a socio-economic issue, and “people issues” that “can be addressed through math,” because healthcare, education, real estate all use statistics.

ChicagoCHEC and its partners host events and programs throughout the year to attract “diverse perspectives and experiences to advance the nation’s work toward cancer health equity.”

The program’s research fellows are students from the cooperating universities and local community colleges. The fellows spend the summer completing field work, gathering data and working alongside community partners to make an impact in those communities while gaining skills that will prepare them for graduate or medical school.

Cicierski said she hopes the event will bring more attention to the university as a resource to other institutions.

ChicagoCHEC Center Manager Joeli Brinkman said conference organizers “hope to demystify mathematical challenges and lead women and girls toward thinking about pursuing careers in math and science.”

The National Girls Collaborative Project reported women are more than half of the college-educated workforce but only 29% of science and engineering workers.

Brinkman is hopeful that this year’s grant writing workshop will inspire NEIU colleagues to seek funding for curriculum development and other areas that support health equity research and advancement.

As a researcher, Brinkman knows the challenges of obtaining funding, getting published and performing research while teaching. “It’s important to build relationships with other Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) and faculty who have similar interests,” Brinkman said.

Interdisciplinary studies senior, ChicagoCHEC Fellow and NEIU CHECCrew President Ketta Cardona said that although she has noticed and appreciated the increase in science instruction and engagement by women and girls, adequate representation for women of color, particularly in engineering, is still needed.

Ketta’s goal is to obtain her master’s in human resource development and eventually a doctorate in design thinking because she “realized that a BA wasn’t going to be enough for me to make as big an impact in mentoring younger women to pursue higher education.”

According to Catalyst, women make up less than one-third of the world’s scientific research and development.

Cardona and Brinkman believe the career panel during the event will be an important opportunity for current and future women leaders to hear first-hand from those who were once in the audience’s seats of conferences.

The Women in Science Conference will be held Friday, Oct. 26 at NEIU Alumni Hall. The event is open to the public but registration is encouraged. For more information, please visit: